When you think of technology and electronics, the word ’strechable’ is unlikely to pop into your mind. One Finnish startup however, looks set to change that.
Forciot, a startup from Tampere, Finland, has raised significant international interest with its unique stretchable electronics solutions for both sport and industry. With advanced force and pressure measurement techniques and IoT and mobile technology support, the company is now among the finalists for the award of Best Start-Up in the IoT and AI category at the Mobile World Congress Americas.
Forciot’s technology can be integrated in various types of devices and products, including shoes, insoles, boxing gloves and other items of clothing. With Forciot’s technology, a basketball player can measure the power of his jump, for instance, a sprinter the explosive power of her start, a marathon runner the balance of his stride, or a boxer the force of his strike.
The measurements performed by the various sensors while an athlete moves are very precise, and all this data is stored in a cloud service where it is easily available for use in both real-time and later on for review.
“More and more companies are interested in applying wearable electronics and IoT. We want to integrate this technology with our regular everyday activities, into products that we are using all the time,” says Maria Alm, managing director of Forciot.
Lots of application opportunities
In addition to serving both competitive athletes and amateur sports enthusiasts, the company’s technology can also provide valuable information to physiotherapists on how their patients are healing. In the future, it will even be able to help in the diagnostics of certain neurological conditions.
The Forciot team has already met with, for instance, large sports footwear and clothing manufacturers that are ready to form partnerships. “Wearable electronics are something completely new to many of our potential customers. So as a pioneer in this field, we can serve as a development partner. We help our customers to plan how to integrate this technology into their products and license our solution for themselves,” explains Tytti Julkunen, CMO of Forciot.
The team created its first demo solution in the insole of a shoe, using this to show what the technology can do for different types of customers – including industrial solutions. Currently, Forciot is verifying the start of mass production.
A flying start
Forciot’s story began in 2015, when Maria got the idea to combine force sensors with IoT technology. She shared her ideas with Tytti, who suggested sports as the first application area. Since then Forciot has made a speedy journey to the meeting rooms of multiple globally known brands.
The pair soon found Jukka Vanhala and Pekka Iso-Ketola at the Tampere University of Technology. Both had widely researched stretchable electronics and were ready to start production. Through Microsoft’s Polku support program, which Maria and Tytti were part of, the team found specialists in mobile technology.
“Finding people with these competences really was a flying start for us. We have lots of different kinds of skills in the team, and it is great to continue building the company and technology based on this expertise,” says Tytti. Forciot started with a team of seven, which has now grown to 15. The company has also established a wide network of partners.
In the early days, Forciot received widespread support from Microsoft’s Polku program, including grants, training, sparring and their first premises.
Maria and Tytti believe that their background at Nokia and Microsoft has been a very valuable asset – thanks to the international experience, the Forciot team is able to master the development of products that will be manufactured in high volumes, and can easily understand the challenges of their globally operating customers.
Microsoft Finland’s startup support – a breakdown
- Microsoft’s Polku program was established in August 2015. As part of Polku, the Kipinä entrepreneurship program has acted as a springboard for more than 200 growth companies
- Microsoft Flux community provides start-ups with premises and a networking hub in the heart of Helsinki. High technology solutions, coaching and guidance are also available
- Turbopump accelerator program helps promising Finnish start-ups to grow and connect with Microsoft’s international customer and partner network. The idea is to ensure that growth is not halted after a promising start, but that start-ups can continue to grow and scale up their operations to the global market. The participating companies get tailored plans for going international and get to work in their target markets, meeting potential customers and investors.